Support for LAist comes from
We Explain L.A.
Stay Connected

Share This


LADWP’s Owens Lake Dustbowl Is Better, But More Dust Control Is Needed

A bulldozer plows a series of furrows several feet deep to hold dust down on Owens Lake's dry bed. Molly Peterson/LAist
Stories like these are only possible with your help!
You have the power to keep local news strong for the coming months. Your financial support today keeps our reporters ready to meet the needs of our city. Thank you for investing in your community.

More than a century ago, when the city of L.A built an aqueduct to bring water down from the North, it diverted water from Owens Lake. That brought a plentiful water supply south, but left behind a dust bowl that is one of the nation’s worst sources of air pollution.

Dust control measures have cost Los Angeles Department of Water and Power customers more than $2 billion over the past 20 years. But a new report out Wednesday says it’s not working well enough.

The LADWP has tried a lot of things to control dust rising from the dry Owens Lake bed and has seen a significant reduction in particulate pollution. It's flooded some areas of the lake, grown shrubs, built fences, used sprinklers and applied binders to make the dust stick to the soil like frosting on a cake.

The lung-damaging pollution used to be 20 times worse than state and federal standards, and now -- it’s only about twice as bad. However, it still needs to be reduced.

Support for LAist comes from

Shallow flooding the lake bed works best. But LADWP says that uses too much water that L.A. needs.

In its report, the National Academies of Science recommends trying some hybrid methods of dust control that combine two or more strategies. Like growing vegetation in areas of the lake that are lightly watered.

The report is part of a settlement agreement between the Great Basin Unified Air Pollution Control District serving Alpine, Mono and Inyo counties which complained about the dust, and the LADWP, which is responsible for controlling the dust.